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Posts from 2017 November
November 18th, 2017 · 8 comments
Leonardo’s Life Hack
Last month, Walter Isaacson released his big new biography of Leonardo da Vinci. I haven’t read it yet (though it’s inevitable I will). In the meantime, I listened to Brett McKay’s sharp podcast interview with Isaacson.
As the conversation winds down, McKay poses an intriguing question:
“[Leonardo] da Vinci lived 500 years ago, Twitter didn’t exit, Instagram didn’t exist, all these digital things that are distracting us, that make it hard to really observe, didn’t exist. So based on your research and writing on da Vinci: what can we learn from him about staying focused and observing intensely on things even in this crazy digital world that we live in?”
Isaacson, who spent years immersed in over 7000 pages of da Vinci’s brilliant, but also scattered and frenetic notebooks, dismissed the premise: “Yeah, he had distractions too.”
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November 10th, 2017 · 28 comments
A Conscientious Objection
Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, was interviewed onstage yesterday at an event held by Axios at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The topic was cancer innovation, but the conversation turned at some point to Parker’s time at Facebook during its early years.
Perhaps emboldened by social media’s recent PR problems, Parker, who told Axios co-founder Mike Allen backstage that he had become a “conscientious objector on social media,” was unusually candid.
Here are some of his remarks (as reported this morning by Allen):
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November 3rd, 2017 · 23 comments
How to Live
In 1910, Arnold Bennett published a short volume titled How to Live on 24 Hours a Day. He was alarmed with the way the newly emergent British middle class seemed to waste their time outside of work. The average salaryman of this era doesn’t live, he noted, but instead “muddles through,” wasting time — that “inexplicable raw material of everything,” the supply of which “though gloriously regular is cruelly restricted.”
Bennett being Bennett decided he could tell these muddlers how to live better. So he wrote this guide.
I come back to this book from time to time. If you look past the standard Bennett snobbery and occasional dash of Victorian ornateness — “inexplicable raw material of everything”…really? — it’s both surprisingly pragmatic and relevant to all sorts of contemporary issues.
In my latest skim, for example, the following passage caught my attention. It’s Bennett’s summary of the standard post-work evening for a British white collar worker:
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